I go back to Scotland and figure I can’t go to the other Tent shows. Thom replies to my email. He’s in Brussels “listening to a chorus of a hundred trucks with their horns going forming these occasionally beautiful harmonies.”
There have been a spate of protests about fuel prices springing up all over the place this week, lorry drivers and farmers have been barricading petrol stations and blockading oil facilities. When I ask him if I can bring a friend to the shows he says, “Bring someone you want to errr… impress.”
As I don’t have anyone like that on the horizon, I invite my brother as I owe him a birthday present and JC, one of my few Glasgow friends who still goes to gigs.
I’ve stopped keeping a diary and so my impressions of these gigs weren’t captured in as much detail as previous ones. These two shows have blurred together. I was frustrated at not being able to leave work early to get across to where the tents were pitched. I remember sitting at my desk in the afternoon, knowing that the band would already be in town, that the tent would already be up and the sound check would be taking place without my being able to get there.
By the time I reached Glasgow Green and negotiated the long walk along well cordoned paths to the tent, I was only just in time to catch the start of the show. I missed the ritual of arriving early, pitching up at the front and watching the stage being prepared.
I’m not close enough to be able to see much of what’s happening on the stage. The gigs themselves are not preserved by my faulty memory. I remember being very happy that Thom had put me on the list, honoured that he’d added aftershow passes.
Of the Thursday, I have one enduring memory. My brother Jim had been interested in the intro tape that played between Clinic and Radiohead’s sets. He’d heard that Warp Records’ artist Mira Calix (aka Chantal Passamonte, wife of Sean Booth from Autechre) was due to be the DJ on this tour. When we briefly spoke in the catering tent after the show, I introduced my brother and he asked Thom if “Chantal” was here DJ-ing or if it was a tape. Not many people had heard of Mira Calix, let alone knew who performed under that name. Jim had been hanging out and working with artists affiliated to the Warp crowd in Sheffield. He’d been at parties with them, he’d projected video at a variety of gigs and he moved in the same circles. He knew the people behind Skam Records, Autechre, SND and a whole load of the electronic music that Thom was now into. My brother was unselfconsciously telling a story about working with them and Thom was hopping from foot to foot with excitement. “You know Sean!?”. My younger brother, for that moment, was infinitely cooler than Thom.
The next night, the tent contained a typically excitable Glasgow Friday night audience, revved up, loud, beery and boisterous. I was wound up, on edge, having raced to get there and meet JC. The crowd took over the feeling that night. The gig felt physical in a way the shows hadn’t done for a good long while. Thom was dancing again, bouncing about and into it. The cynicism of the OK Computer tour was gone. I was glad this part of his performance was back, but I couldn’t see much of it and I couldn’t connect. I couldn’t get the release I wanted from the show. I felt like a frustrated addict.
In the aftershow area, JC and I found a table with an array of interesting European bottled beers cooling in a tub of ice. As we were examining them to see what they were, Thom appeared and asked us to find him one with “a low number”, he wanted to get an early night. Between us we pulled all the different types of beer out of the bucket, searching each label for the alcohol percentage numbers. Once Thom was satisfied he had the weakest of the bunch he wandered off and left us with a Belgian beer called Kwak, at about 8% it was one of the higher numbers. JC was convinced it tasted of bananas, but we drank it anyway. This may go some way to explaining why I can’t remember much of the rest of the evening.
We stayed put and calmed down a bit, drinking a couple of the beers. I couldn’t find my tongue to talk to Thom. My head was crowded with requests from other people who wanted to give him messages, or ask him to get in touch. In the end I just gave him a hug when he left. I noticed a pregnant woman leaving at the same time, but didn’t put two and two together. Having never been formally introduced to her I didn’t realise then who it was…